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Archaeological Protection

Archaeological resources are our part of our common heritage. Looters and vandals steal or damage a legacy that is irreplaceable.

For thousands of years, Indians have lived on the Columbia, Snake, and Clearwater rivers and their surrounding tributaries. They gathered food, hunted, fished, and lived in small and large villages, worshipped in special places, and carefully buried their dead. Because of this, it is a region rich with culturally and historically sensitive areas and artifacts.

As time passed, non-Indians moved into the Columbia River Basin. They built homes and occupied the land in different ways. Like the Indians, they also worshipped in special places and carefully buried their dead. All these people left evidence of their lives on and around these rivers. These remnants are our country’s legacy and the heritage of all people and cannot be restored once they are damaged or removed.

Protecting our shared past now and for the future

Cultural artifacts such as arrowheads, burial sites, homestead sites, and other items from past human life or activities are not a renewable resource. Once taken or damaged, they are lost to all of us. They should be left in place and honored.

TheColumbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Enforcement Department, in cooperation with federal agencies and the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes, protects cultural and archaeological resources. It also works with federal, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho state and local law enforcement agencies in protecting these resources.

Many visitors to locations where artifacts are found are unaware that it is unlawful to disturb, alter, destroy, remove, or deface sites and items. Unfortunately there are people on the river who, every day, destroy and remove cultural and archaeological resources. An archaeological resource is any material remains of past human life, activities, and occupation.

This isn’t limited to Indian artifacts. Materials from ghost towns, homestead sites, or other early non-Indian settlement are all subject to these strict protections. There are federal, state, and tribal laws protecting these resources and damaging, defacing, or stealing them are crimes punishable with fines and prison terms.

Some examples of illegal acts are:

  • Defacing a pictograph or petroglyph
  • Using a tool to remove an artifact from the ground. (A tool being any instrument, even a stick.)
  • Digging for or possessing Native American remains
  • Digging for bottles
  • Removing any artifacts
  • Digging or probing the ground for historic or prehistoric material
  • Vandalizing old buildings

How can you help?

There are many ways in which you can assist in protecting these vital resources:

  • Immediately notify us if you see any of the illegal acts listed
  • Share the information you learn on this site with family and friends
  • Respect these special places and teach your children the same
  • Do not touch or pick up archaeological or cultural resources; report it when others do
  • When you suspect a violation, DO NOT get involved or approach the scene. Take down as much information (such as the number of people along with physical descriptions, vehicle make or model, license number, date and time, location, what the suspect is doing) and provide this to CRITFC Enforcement at (800) IT’S FISHY (487-3474)

There is a $1000 reward through the Crime Witness Program issued upon the conviction of a looter or vandal.

Together we can protect these priceless resources for future generations.

Tip Line

1 (800) IT’S FISHY 1 (800) 487-3474

Call if you see someone harming or stealing archaeological resources along the Columbia River.

Protecting the Past

A stone net weight used by ancient tribal fishers. Items such as these are occasionally found along rivers in the Columbia Basin. The archeological protection work CRITFE performs ensures that the history of ancient tribal fishing culture can be remembered and studied for generations to come.

Not everyone who destroys or damages cultural artifacts is a collector. People damaged these petroglyphs by simply taking rubbings with chalk and paint.